of the Week Selections, First Quarter, 2002
Result of Receptivity
Berger , from
the essay, "Steps Towards
a Small Theory of the Visible,"
published in The
Shape of a Pocket, Pantheon Books,
from an exerpt of the essay published
in Harper's Magazine titled
"Another Way of Seeing,"
March, 2002, pp. 29 - 32.
did you become what you visibly are? asks
am as I am. I'm waiting, replies the mountain
or the mouse or the child.
you, if you abandon everything else.
as long as it takes.
are other things in life.
them and be more normal.
if I don't?
give you what I've given nobody else, but
it's worthless; it's simply the answer to
your useless question.
am as I am.
promise more than that?
I can wait forever.
like a normal life.
it and don't count on me.
if I do count on you?
everything and in me you'll findme!
collaboration which sometimes follows is seldom
based on goodwill: more usually on desire,
rage, fear, pity, or longing. The modern illusion
concerning painting (which postmodernism has
done nothing to correct) is that the artist
is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What
seems like creation is the act of giving form
to what has been received.
told me to look at my hand, for a part of it came
from a star that exploded too long ago to imagine.
This part of me was formed from a tongue of fire that
screamed through the heavens until there was our sun.
And this part of me - - this tiny part of me - - was
on the sun when it itself exploded and whirled in
a great storm until the planets came to be. And this
small part of me was then a whisper of the earth.
When there was life, perhaps this small part of me
got lost in a fern that was crushed and covered until
it was coal. And then it was a diamond millions of
years later - - it must have been a diamond as beautiful
as the star from which it had first come. Or perhaps
this part of me became lost in a terrible beast, or
became part of a huge bird that flew above the primeval
swamps. And then he said this thing was so small -
- this part of me was so small it couldn't be seen
- - but it was there from the beginning of the world.
And he called this bit of me an atom. And when he
wrote the word, I fell in love with it. Atom. Atom.
What a beautiful word.
a sense, Freud demonstrated that there is an artist
in everyone. A dream is, after all, a little work
of art, and there are new dreams every night.
In order to interpret his patients' dreams, Freud
often had to work his way through a dense language
of symbolsrather in the way we interpret
a picture or literary text."
we dream every single night?"
research shows that we dream for about twenty
percent of our sleeping hours, that is, between
one and two hours each night. If we are disturbed
during our dream phases we become nervous and
irritable. This means nothing less than that everybody
has an innate need to give artistic expression
to his or her existential situation. After all,
it is ourselves that our dreams are about. We
are the directors, we set up the scenario and
play all the roles. A person who says he doesn't
understand art doesn't know himself very well."
teacher, whether he knows it or not, teaches
three things at once: the subject under
investigation, the art of investigation
and the art of teaching. The two latter
teachings, which concern method rather
than matter, are more subtle, more lasting,
and more important. We teach them by patient
and unadvertised repitition, showing through
time how the same method works in a variety
of cases. Only through this combination
of coherence and variety can the student
grasp the nature of method abstract
it and see it as something distinct from
the specific subject matter and the specific
character of the teacher. More advanced
students should be shown how a variety
of methods can be applied to the same
subject. Both these levels of teaching
are like perambulations, walkings around
an object in an effort to comprehend its
dimensions and form. In the first case,
we walk around method itself; in the second,
we walk around a subject. In a third and
still higher form of learning, we seek
a master method, discovering through repetition
and abstraction what all valid methods
have in common.
It is normally thought that policies and plans
must be devised to cover whole systems. Systems
thinking encourages people to take account of
the impact of their actions across the whole system
(Senge, 1990), Whole system consulting tries to
"get the whole system in the room" (Owen,
1992; Weisbord and Janoff, 1995; Pratt, et. al.,
1999). There is concern with whether the right
people are being invited to get involved in change
initiatives. To be at all worthwhile, interventions
must aim at behavior change across the whole organization.
Programs must be rolled out and rolled down an
organization if they are to have any effect. The
notion that policies and interventions are not
much good if they do not cover the whole organization
is thus widespread. The "patching" analogy
(Kauffman, 1995) suggests that this "whole
system" approach may not only be unnecessary
for the production of coherent action but might
actually be destabilizing and produce incoherence
I speak of a nest of time, I mean any frequently repeated
experience whose unique dynamics, intensity of involvement
and regular length wall it off from other experiences
and so establish a discrete psychological environment.
While we habitually seek out nests in space, areas
for privacy or intimacy or repose, we are relative
novices in establishing these temporal havens, and
slow in realizing that free space is useless without
uncluttered time. Indeed, a nest of time need not
require a special place at all: its only two requirements
are that it concern some desirable activity and that
it be, barring emergencies, inviolable. A writer sits
down to work. It is nine in the morning, and the next
four hours are free, just as they have been the day
before and will be the day after, by his express decision
and unequivocal need. He looks down those four hours
as down a clear view of unencumbered space; more broadly,
the regular work periods of the future open up like
a long bright hallway of work in freedom. He has no
need to fear wasted hour, an unproductive day, and
conversely he has no time-related excuse for sloth
or failure. Two lovers meet each evening from five
to seven. Their activities vary but their intimacy
does not. Whatever else they do during the day is
redeemed by this period. A man goes jogging regularly,
through the countryside or a park, for forty minutes.
The stress of running is sufficient to make it the
only thing he thinks of. Yet immediately beneath his
awareness of the present, in the familiar landmarks
and the familiar stresses, is the sense that he has
done this before and will do this again, that he characteristically
wills to do it, that in doing it he enters and enlarges
a part of himself which is unavailable to him at other
times. Such periods unify us, concentrating our energy,
judgment and emotion upon a single point. Conversely,
they relieve us from all other considerations and
so give us profound refreshment. They give us, if
temporarily, ourselves. They are true acts of freedom,
compared with which our normal miscellaneous diversions
and indulgences of impulse are like the fluttering
on the verge means mastering the overlap between
two phases, which requires that you manage for
both the current phase and the next one
and, at just the right moment, make the leap between
make the leap from innovation to growth, you must
have the ability to choose winners from the innovative
options on your menu, as well as the requisite
discipline to focus your attention on them.
make the leap from growth to improvement you must
develop the ability to generate different and
better variations on your core products and services,
as well as the requisite variety of people and
skills to launch them as needed.
make the leap from improvement, to release, and
finally to a new cycle of innovation, you must
know the underlying mission and enduring purpose
that gives life to your company, and have the
requisite vision to express that mission in ways
that follow the plans and serve the role your
stakeholders expect from you.
an apple through at its equator, and you will
find five small chambers arrayed in a perfectly
symmetrical starbursta pentagram. Each of
the chambers holds a seed (occasionally two) of
such a deep lustrous brown they might have been
oiled and polished by a woodworker....
seed in that apple, not to mention every seed
riding down the Ohio alongside Johnny Chapman
[aka, Johnny Appleseed -ed.], contains the genetic
instructions of a completely new and different
apple tree, one that, if planted, would bear only
the most glancing resemblance to its parents.
If not for graftingthe ancient technique
of cloning treesevery apple in the world
would be its own distinct variety, and it would
be impossible to keep a good one going beyond
the life span of a particular tree. In the case
of the apple, the fruit nearly always falls far
from the tree.
botanical term for this variability is "heterozygosity,"
and while there are many species that share it
(our own included), in the apple the tendency
is extreme. More than any other single trait,
it is the apple's genetic variabilityits
ineluctable wildnessthat accounts for its
ability to make itself at home in places as different
from one another as New England and New Zealand,
Kazakhstan and California.
ecosystems overlap without nesting within one
another, they define an ecological verge on which
they may engage in a kind of battle. A verge
is a rich mixture of ecosystems that happens where
two distinct forms meet with each other and begin
to intermix. Often, two species seek to inhabit
the same niche, but they will not be successful.
According to the competitive exclusion principle
developed by biologist Garrett Hardin, at least
one of the organisms must adapt or die. Thus,
while nested systems may in effect cooperate,
overlapping ones often foster competition. The
competition often leads to co-adaptations in which
the systems become interdependent, one bordering
on or even nesting within the other.
Hectare for hectare, its species diversity is
hundreds of times the global average. Why is this
important? Because it shows what happens when
two systems are brought together, overlaid on
the same territorythe mix of competition
and cooperation, of destruction and creation.
Verges are places of conflict, but also of positive
change. They bring together diverse systems and
set the stage either for their integration or
for their destruction.
economy, too, is on a verge. We are living between
two great eras of civilization, between two ecological
necessary components for the skyscraper emerged
from the mines years before the Hallidie Buiding
or its taller neighbors in the finacial district
appeared. Mining and mechanical journals, and
the annual exhibitions of the Mechanics Institute,
publicized those innovations. There they would
have been available to the engineers and architects
who created the first true skyscrapers in Chicago
in the final two decades of the nineteenth century.
Ventilators, high-speed safety elevators, the
early use of electric lighting and telephones,
all were demanded and paid for by the prodigious
output and prospects of the hydraulic mines of
California and the hardrock mines of the Comstock
Lode. Moreover, the open framework of the Deidesheimer
square set suggested to more than one observer
an unprecedented kind of structure. "Imagine
[the mine] hoisted out of the ground and left
standing upon the surface," wrote reporter
Dan De Quille. The viewer "would then see
before him an immense structure, four or five
times as large as the greatest hotel in America,
about twice or three times as wide, and over two
thousand feet high. The several levels of the
mine would represent the floors of the building,"
all connected by a high-speed safety elevator
called a "cage." The mine would look
like a building with its walls removed in which
hundreds of men could be seen working...
the many good reasons for making plans is the
fact that the future can be enjoyed as fully as
the present or the past. But most of what we enjoy,
we enjoy specifically. A contemplated week in
Paris, pleasant as a generalized concept, becomes
much more pleasant when we know that it will include
a visit to the Sainte-Chapelle, afternoons at
the Louvre and Cluny, a splurge, a stroll on the
Ile St. Louis, an evening at the Opera preceded
by cocktails at the cafe of the same name and
followed by onion soup near the old site of Les
Halles, a morning Metro-ride to the Jardin des
Plantes or the Vincennes Zoo. In this way the
projected days become a delightful union of the
real and the ideal; and the future, huge yet as
transparent and inconsequential as vacant sky,
takes on dozens of meaningful shapes. People suspect
that planning will shackle them; but, with moderation,
this is almost never the case. If you make plans,
you may always diverge from themcommitting
what is itself a pleasant act of freedom. If you
do not make plans, you leave the future an empty
field of chance, uselss to the present, forfeit
to your own unpredictable moods. You insult time,
and it turns away from you a face that could have
been full of solace. And you imply to yourself
that the two other dimensions of time, past and
present, mean less to you than they might or should.